When Lindholmen Science Park was founded in 2000, the entire area was undergoing a process of change. A site that began life as a barracks with a model made of roughly cut pieces of polystyrene to show what was going to be established there has developed into one of Sweden’s most important innovation hubs. Around 375 companies, two universities and eight secondary schools are based in Lindholmen and a total of about 25,000 people come to the area every day. The science park is continuing to grow and that is opening up opportunities for even greater innovation.
During her presentation, Darja Isaksson, director general of Vinnova, highlighted the fact that innovation is the key to resolving the challenges of the future. Innovation is needed on a regional, national and international level with a mix of public and private sector players and regional and national organisations.
“We are the last generation to have the necessary window to make the move to a sustainable society. What we are seeing now is an opportunity for smart investment. That is why I want to thank you. I know that many of you who are here today represent a large part of the innovation system. It is you who are driving change and the innovations that will make it possible for future generations to live in a society that is better than the one we have today,” said Darja Isaksson.
One of the founders of Lindholmen Science Park, Region Västra Götaland, also emphasised the importance of cooperation. Helena Nilsson, director of development for the region, explained how three ingredients were brought together during the establishment of Lindholmen Science Park to ensure that the research and development produced high-quality, usable results. These three ingredients are: the creation of a meeting place for companies, public sector bodies and the research community, the ability to experiment and the development of trust between the players. This combination of factors is just as significant today as it was then and will remain so in the future.
“Today we are talking about the ability to change and to overcome social challenges in a practical way. These three components will be important in the future, even if we are now looking at complex issues from a system perspective,” said Helena Nilsson.
Mobility – one of the keys to the society of the future
One area that many of the organisations at Lindholmen are focusing on is future mobility. A number of collaborative projects and programmes at Lindholmen Science Park have led to many important steps being taken towards making transport systems more sustainable, accessible and adaptable to a changing and challenging future. But even though much has already been achieved, more work than ever is under way in this area.
One example of this work is the SMOOTh project, which is focusing on the supply chain through to the customer. Its objective is to halve the amount of goods traffic entering our cities. In order to achieve this, the project team members are using algorithms to create a system that links together logistics, retail and transport systems and regulations. This allows them to develop new solutions for transporting goods to hubs or directly to retailers or private customers. Their system will result in less traffic in our cities, cleaner air and a better urban environment.
Sofie Vennersten, programme director of Drive Sweden, gave a broader picture of what is happening in the area. Drive Sweden, one of Lindholmen Science Park’s ten stand-alone programmes and projects, which bring together numerous other projects, is focusing on passenger transport. The programme’s extensive network of around 150 partners in five subject areas creates a system perspective and enables the essential collaboration that was highlighted by many of the speakers.
“The changeover isn’t something that any single organisation can achieve on its own. In Drive Sweden we are working to bring together the major vehicle manufacturers and the telecoms industry with other companies both large and small, but also with public sector organisations and researchers. This will make us highly competitive,” said Sofie Vennersten.
There is a great deal of interest in the Swedish cooperation model. More and more international players are becoming involved in Drive Sweden, which, like other programmes at Lindholmen, has established all the necessary cooperation platforms for the participants.
Connected bees, 5G and AI pave the way
5G technology has the potential to open up new opportunities for a huge variety of technical innovations. One exciting example of this was presented by Ericsson. In the Beewinged project, the company is studying the bees it has given a home to on the roof of its building. Bees make an important contribution to biodiversity but have been suffering for a long time as the world has been changing. Whole bee colonies have died out and the ones which survive are not living as long as they did in the past.
The project has connected the beehives and is collecting data on the health of the bees and how they are working and living. Using 5G technology, the project team has new opportunities to obtain high-resolution images and video footage which means that they can track developments in the beehives in real time with more and better quality data. If this data is used correctly, it can help bees to thrive, which will bring a variety of different benefits for the natural world.
There are many potential applications for 5G, one of which is public transport. This was highlighted by Martin Wahlgren from Consat, Jonas Wilhelmsson from Ericsson and Gunnar Ohlin from Lindholmen Science Park, among others. 5G can be used to provide more effective real-time information for passengers about local transport options and to offer greater accuracy with the use of geofencing, which among other things can control the speed and the powertrain of buses.
This and many other aspects of public transport have been trialled as part of the ElectriCity project on electric bus route 55 in Gothenburg, which is a test arena in full operation. The trials have been so successful that the line has achieved its objectives and has led to the largest purchase of electric buses in Europe. This means that the Gothenburg area will have another 170 electric buses on its streets by December. According to the project team members, the most important factors in the project’s success were trust and cooperation. They are carrying this forward into new trials not only of buses but hopefully also of boat traffic and construction sites. If the process of electrification and the trials of new technologies continue on the same track, we can look forward to a cleaner, quieter and safer city in the near future.
Another enabler of innovation and social change is AI, which can be used in an almost infinite number of contexts. Göran Lindsjö, senior advisor and founding fellow at AI Sweden, gave an insight into the field of AI. It has the potential to supply and process new and existing data in order to make many tasks easier. AI covers a wide range of applications spanning everything from sustainability and public administration to healthcare, the democratic system, education and mobility. AI Sweden, which is growing fast, is already working in some of these areas. According to Göran Lindsjö, Sweden is in an ideal position to drive the development of AI.
“We have a digitally mature population, a number of large companies that have made significant progress with the use of AI, a lot of promising start-ups and a strong entrepreneurial spirit. Also we are not generally afraid of change. Importantly we have very high-quality data when compared with many other countries,” explained Göran Lindsjö, who has high hopes for the future of AI in Sweden.
“When I visit other countries, I find that the picture they have of Sweden and the Swedish ability to innovate is very positive. I highlight the fact that we can cooperate and sit down and discuss issues and agree to move forward in the same direction, even if we have different opinions and roles,” said Ibrahim Baylan.
One of the concluding speakers at the Lindholmen Open Days was the chairman of the board of Astra Zeneca, Leif Johansson, who was involved in Lindholmen Science Park in the early days because of the position he held in the Volvo Group at the time. He believes that Lindholmen has a lasting recipe for success.
“If you can create links between universities, businesses and society as a whole, you can achieve a great deal. When Lindholmen started, it was one of the first examples of all of these areas genuinely joining forces. It’s clear that countries which succeed in working together will be more successful,” said Leif Johansson.
He also explained that Sweden, with its small domestic market, has an innovation system that functions on an international scale, which makes it extremely competitive. He believes that in order for this success to continue, Sweden needs to focus on making local changes and supporting the projects that are making good progress. This also applies to Lindholmen Science Park.